An undulating, tripped-out space opera, Ascent is the latest from guitarist Ben Chasny’s psych-folk project Six Organs of Admittance — here joined for an electric, full-band lineup by his Comets on Fire bandmates Ethan Miller, Noel Von Harmonson, Ben Flashman, and Utrillo Kushner.
From the start, Chasny’s guitar comes alive with candescent color, invoking the avant psych-geist without pastiche. Rolling lines of finger play provide atmospheric breaks, and reflective pieces like “Your Ghost” prove that, despite the special guests, his softer sensibilities are undamaged. But make no mistake: the main focus here is the roar and reason of electric guitar.
Anchored in rock beats, the album moves hypnotic melodies into cascading crescendos, with Chasny’s voice closing the circle; his fragile, sardonic delivery provides a path through the shifting soundscape. “Waswasa” opens the album with a raw energy that quickly redirects to sway — from swagger into roaring, abstract planes of amped-up guitar on “Close to the Sky.” “They Called You Near” then takes the listener on a tour de trance, from drone to rhythmic repetition.
Six Organs last utilized this lineup when touring in 2002 for the release of Dark Noontide. A reconfigured version of “A Thousand Birds,” now “One Thousand Birds,” acts as a bridge between now and then. The song’s transformation, however, is a pristine rebirth, and without the lyrical hooks, it would be difficult to recognize the two as the same piece.
Much like Comets on Fire — which remains on hiatus — the new Six Organs of Admittance is a force of raging psychedelia. And by winding down with the slow-jam beauty of “Visions (From Io),” Ascent leaves the listener ready to repeat the journey.